Chris Runckel
An Interview with Mr. Chris Runckel,
President of Runckel & Associates

in Rainmakers Column of
 Portland Monthly Magazine

Ted Katauskas

- Research assistance by John Draper


Notion Pacific: 

Ask Chris Runckel just how he came to be one of the world’s foremost experts on business in Asia, and he’ll start off by telling you that he grew up in Hood River, where his father invested hardboard, a type of particle board.

Then he’ll mention that he was drafted into the infantry in 1969, when he was 19, and fought in the jungles of Vietnam.  And that after his tour, the GI Bill put him through the University of Oregon, then law school at Lewis & Clark.  And that the law degree he earned took him to Gerald Ford’s White House in 1975, when as deputy general counsel of the Presidential Clemency Board he helped pardon Vietnam-era deserters and draft evaders.

He might also offer that he has worked at American embassies in Bangkok (where he married the daughter of a noted Thai architect), Beijing, Fiji, Hong Kong and London – and in 1996, as the first U.S. diplomat assigned to Hanoi after the Vietnam War.  Then he’ll tell you how he abruptly retired from diplomatic life in 1998 to move his family into his parents’ house in Hillsdale so his teenage son – now a junior studying genetics at Dartmouth – could attend Wilson High School.

“We had moved 12 times in 14 years, and I made a deal with him that he would start and finish in the same high school,” says Runckel, president of Runckel & Associates, the international consulting firm he founded in 1999 and runs out of his parents’ home, which he now owns, “I was happy to come back here.  People who’ve been living here for a long time don’t understand how the city is changing.  One of the reasons I’m very bullish on Portland is because there’s this resurgence, this considerable talent that is coming here.”

Including, of course, Chris Runckel and associates like his wife, Soraya, co-owner and vice president of the firm, which specializes in helping U.S. companies establish offices and factories in Asia, something Runckel & Associates itself has done 15 times in nine Asian countries.  As for the vice president, who oversees the company’s 26 websites – some of which generate more than a million hits a month – Soraya Runckel also is an accomplished watercolor artist whose works have been shown in galleries from Beijing to London. 

Chris Runckel now spends most of his days on airplanes, advising clients around the world (he’s fluent in seven languages), including the State Department’s Office of Presidential and Vice Presidential Travel (Runckel has provided foreign travel logistical support for the last six U.S. presidents).  He’s even helping officials at Layola Marymount University in Los Angeles retool the focus of the school’s MBA program from Europe to Asia.

Which he thinks is a lesson his own hometown could learn from.

Portland is not fully seeing its potential in Asia,” says Runckel.  “It’s not so much that Portland doesn’t realize that Asia is important, I think, it’s partially a failure of city government, state government and the business community to come together and effectively build a strategy that makes sense for the region.  My point is that when it comes to Asia, Portland is just scratching the surface.  A lot of opportunities are being left on the table.”  <>

And guys like Runckel are cleaning up.   


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